Perhaps the most ubiquitous nazarlik is the blue "evil eye" bead (Pic. 3).
The Ubiquitous "Blue Bead"
Even the most westernized Turks may have a small blue bead pinned
under their suit collar (This is especially true of small children), and
most still carry their tasbih or prayer beads (for prayer and good luck).
Even a "modern" Turkish mother will pin a blue bead on her child's
clothing. Just in case.
(Ed. I have seen a blue "evil eye" bead on the bumper of a BMW in
Istanbul. Some folks define their "children" variously.)
Color as Nazarlik
Why "blue?" one might ask.
"Well," Saul said, "the color blue not only represents the sky, which is
closest to god, it is also the color of the peacock, which to the Yezdis is
the creature favored by God's favorite angel - Shaitan."
Yet another explanation is that when the dye indigo was introduced,
people were in awe of the fact that it was yellow, as it came out of the
dye pot, but then instantly, astoundingly, turned blue. Despite the fact
that this phenomena is natural, and merely the result of the dye stuff
being exposed to the air's oxygen, it was so awe-inspiring to ordinary
people that the color blue assumed magical properties for many.
It should also be noted that the usage of blue beads goes back many
thousands of years. For pictorial examples, see The Mummies of
Urumchi by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.
Many of the pieces that Saul had brought featured very bright, even
My own previous assumption has been that women in many traditional
societies simply favor the brightest colors they can produce or find, and
that may still be true to an extent, but Saul provided an alternative
He said that, for example, Kurdish belief holds that evil does not like
pink, orange and other bright colors. Often one can observe Kurdish
homes and doorways painted these very bright colors, as are their
Saul said that Kurdish weavings usually feature some pinks and
oranges - sometimes the fringe is brightly dyed (this doubles the
protective effect because fringe moves and, as we will see, below "evil"
is thought to have a short-attention span and can be distracted by both
color and movement).
This belief may explain why the baby carrier (Pics 4, 5 & 6) that Saul had
brought seems to have a body
and back done in naturally dyed colors. Whereas the fringe is almost
What may be driving this use of bright colors is not just the liking of
them, but the desire to protect the baby! (Note the long goat hair
fringe, which will, when in motion, creates a distraction away from the